Article History

Motorola Milestone

Alright, my second mobile phone!

I've got an Atrix, so this phone will be retired. It still works fairly well and I'm not sure what to do with it.

Specifications

Accessories

Wishlist (historical)

There are a number of “extension” batteries that are much larger than the 1390 mAh OEM battery from Motorola. And by “larger”, I mean physically as well; they project well beyond the back of the phone and require the use of a special-purpose battery cover (usually included with the battery). The two main manufacturers of these large batteries appear to be Mugen and Seidio. Mugen makes one of the largest — a 3300 mAh monster. Another manufacturer makes a battery they claim has 3500 mAh, but at half the price I'm left wondering about the accuracy of that claimed capacity.

Because the battery covers change the shape of the phone body, it creates all sorts of compatibility problems with things like cases, car holders, and docks.

Now, Mugen seems to concentrate on batteries, but Seidio also makes a bunch of other accessories. They make clip-on covers, including one intended to work with their 2800 mAh extended battery (even bundled together). And they make a dock that can accept the phone with the case on, and even the extended battery protruding out the back. So that's one option...

A less ambitious option is to get a 1500 mAh ‘slim’ extended battery that doesn't require a new battery cover. Not as much of a battery capacity increase, but also none of the physical compatibility problems. Mugen also makes a 1700 mAh ‘slim’ battery, which one eBay seller claims will fit in a Droid (the U.S. version of my phone), even though none of the Mugen reseller websites say this.

And an alternative to getting a case is an "invisible shield", which from a little investigation of clues in eBay auctions, is made using thermoplastic polyurethane (likely the polyester variant). Judging from the videos posted by several eBay sellers, this stuff is very scratch resistant. So it would be great for protecting against normal wear and tear. But my phone is second hand and already has quite a bit of wear and tear. And it won't protect against a fall, which my phone has already clearly been through.

I definitely need a new screen protector though. The one that the previous owner put on is covered in scratches.

Experience

I bought this phone through an auction on eBay.

My original SIM card appears to be working in this 3G phone alright. From several “info” apps it is using UMTS and I have seen the ‘H’ icon show up a few times, indicating an HSPA data connection. I‘ve been avoiding that as much as possible though because of the cost of data on my pre-paid plan ($2/MB!) and the amount of data that a device like this could easily pull down. It appears my guess of Vodafone handing out UICC’s to everybody for a while was correct.

I‘ve installed lots of apps, and uninstalled lots too. There’s so many available!

Custom ROMs

Just hours after receiving the phone I rooted it and installed a custom “ROM” to get something newer than Android 2.1. I originally put on Cronos Froyo, then Cronos Ginger, but later switched to CyanogenMod 7 because the Cronos developer wasn't updating the Gingerbread-based ROM. Cronos is based off of CM7 anyway, so there wasn't much of a change anyway.

I tried FroyoMod for a little while and was impressed with how similar it was to CM7 and other Gingerbread-based ROMs in many ways. By comparison, CM6 (and Cronos Froyo) are primitive and abandoned.

Modding

Besides the extra goodies provided by the custom ROMs, there are some extra things I setup on my phone.

Overclocking

I use a custom /etc/init.d/10overclock file, based on one provided by OpenRecovery and also one from Cronos Ginger 1.0.0. I currently use the smartass governor (at bottom) to select between the five speeds of 1 GHz, 600 MHz, 350 MHz, 200 MHz, and 125 MHz. This tight, geometric progression allows me to tweak the min/max_cpu_load parameters of the smartass governor up to 40/90 from the default of 20/80. This means the CPU is more likely to switch down to a slower speed when it doesn't need as much speed, and is also less likely to switch up to a faster speed.

I had previously use the four speeds of 1 GHz, 500 MHz, 250 MHz, and 125 MHz before CM7 0.08-11.04.05 RC4 updated the overclock module. I have also at times used a set of speeds that max out at 1.1 GHz, but it produces more heat for little noticeable improvement in performance.

Beware of overclocking the CPU too much. Higher speeds produce more heat and drain the battery faster. Don't fall into the trap of thinking "oh, it will only use the extra speed in short bursts to get some things done faster". These mobile CPUs are intentionally underpowered to save battery power; they will take every bit of extra speed you give them and want more!

Memory

I‘m finding that the 256 MB of RAM is perhaps limiting the number of widgets I can have on my homescreen(s) or apps running in the background. But don’t try to solve this problem with more apps! Steer clear of apps like “Advanced Task Killer” and “Startup Cleaner”. These are imprecise work-arounds that use up more memory since they also stay around in the background!

The better solution is to tune the memory management parameters of the kernel. A user on XDA forums, zeppelinrox, explains how to SuperCharge & Bulletproof Your Milestone & Droid ! Tips, Tricks & Tweaks. He has worked hard on a number of shell scripts which change system settings to make it better at making memory available to running apps, and to keeping the launcher in memory. He is currently at version 6, a large combined script with a bunch of options available. I thoroughly recommend the use of this script for any Gingerbread users on Milestone phones (and possibly other phones with only 256 MiB of RAM).

As recommended by zeppelinrox, I also increase the heap size to 48 MiB with the following command since this amount is not a listed option in CM extras:

echo -n 48m > /data/property/persist.sys.vm.heapsize

Make sure that file has no newline or the phone won't boot!

Removing unnecessary apps

Even these community ROMs (or more precisely, their Gapps bundles) come with some things that I don't need, or provides a service that is better served by another app. The first version of Cronos I tried (Froyo, based on CM6) included Google's Facebook and Twitter apps. Thankfully that sort of junk is no longer installed, but there's other apps I still remove.

FileManager.apk
Use ES File Explorer instead.
Gallery3D.apk
Impressive but buggy, often caused lock-ups and reboots. Use QuickPic for local photos, JustPictures! for several online albums, or FlickrFree for just Flickr photos.
GenieWidget.apk
Some “news and weather” widget. Don't use it.
Protips.apk
The annoying “tips” widget that's unnecessary once you've used Android for more than five minutes.

See the CyanogenMod wiki “barebones” page about what apps can be removed, and how to do it.

Transferring data

Nokia backups are just PkZip files with an '.NBF' filename extension. Finding the vCard files (.vcf) files and concatenating them together into one file is easy enough. I‘ve transferred this file to the Android emulator and it imports everything just fine! So that’s easy enough.

As for SMS messages, I found a blog post — Transferring Text Messages (SMS) from Nokia to Android. It describes using gammu to download the messages, a Perl script to convert the format, and SMS Backup & Restore to get the messages onto the phone.

As to calendar entries, call log, etc I'm not sure.

Apps

GPS and satnav

Two apps for using my Bluetooth GPS receiver (not perfect):

When I first tried out these apps I found them exiting when I fired up OSMand. I thought that perhaps OSMand was killing them or something. But when I tried them out before the drive to the Central Coast for Mothers Day lunch with grandma, they both worked. Perhaps it was just a problem with memory before and zeppelinrox's tweaks have helped (I am using the ‘multitasking’ settings).

And an app for doing the opposite:

Media

Instant messaging

VOIP

Email and news

Weather widgets

Calendar

Contacts

Networking

Exploration

Cellular

System

Retirement

I have replaced this phone with a Motorola Atrix. What will I do then with my Milestone? It's still functioning and usable.

It functions fine without a SIM card. It displays a SIM card icon with an exclamation point on the notification bar. And it always says “emergency calls only” on the lock screen or in place of the carrier name. So that's a little annoying. But otherwise it's okay.

It could be a simple network terminal, but the keyboard isn't that great. I wonder if my niece and nephew could use it. It's not great for playing games and they might break it fairly quickly. Or maybe I should give it to Glenn and Tania.